Did you miss out?

Neil Pattemore highlights why you should attend big events

Published:  01 August, 2016

Some of you may have read the article I wrote in the June issue about why you should have considered taking the time out of your business to go to the Automechanika exhibition at the Birmingham NEC. This show was likely to be better than previous shows and came at a time when the rate of change in the industry was increasing. The old adage of ‘knowledge is power’ is ever-more important.

Well we are now after the show and I was fortunate to be able to visit during two of the three days in the second week of June – and what a show it was! Even though there were almost 550 exhibitors, the event was sold out months ago with a long list of hopeful applicants who were ultimately disappointed. At the end of the show, the show organisers were reporting over 12,000 visitors and that 70% of next year’s show was already sold. As this is planned to be even bigger than this year’s, it means that more space than this year’s three days has already been sold.

If you didn’t get to this year’s exhibition, you missed out – oh, and you had better start planning for next year!

Learning skills

Amongst the wide range of exhibitors, there were a host of new products, ideas and services which I am sure will be reported in the show reports elsewhere in this magazine, but one of the most useful elements of what had changed from previous exhibitions were the different seminars, with some excellent presentations that covered some important changes that will affect every aspect of the aftermarket.

These included two Frost and Sullivan presentations of the future industry ‘mega-trends’ and the importance of the aftermarket to the UK economy, as well as other presenters covering whether or not the MOT test is fit for purpose, the need for further MOT training and clarification of test station requirements. TV broadcaster and journalist Suzi Perry spoke on the importance of professional registration and the need for a licence to practice across the motoring sector – all interesting topics.

The more technical presentations covered the new technologies of driver assist systems (ADAS) such as lane departure warning, active cruise control and active headlight systems that use camera or radar based systems to read the world around the car and showed some of the diagnostic, repair and maintenance challenges that these systems will provide – especially as some of these systems are already a new vehicle type approval requirement. Other presenters covered the rapidly developing subject of the remote communication with the vehicle (telematics) and how this is providing not only new opportunities for location and remote based services such as predictive maintenance, remote diagnostics and enhanced customer support, but how this also creates significant challenges for the aftermarket through the use of these technical design developments, enabling the vehicle manufacturers to control communication with the vehicle and restrict the access to data through the 16-pin connector and subsequently become a rapidly increasingly and direct threat to independent workshops.

However, as some of these developments will lead to changes in the business models of independent aftermarket suppliers and repairers, there were many questions from visitors at the end of each presentation to better understand the details of how their businesses may be affected, as well as a call for the aftermarket to stand united behind their industry associations to lobby for new legislation to ensure that fair competition and consumer choice can continue into the era of ‘digital repair’.

Technical advancement

Although not unique to the automotive industry, the development of accessing and using data in this digital era is being called the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and it is certain that it will change consumers’ expectations on the way that their vehicles will be serviced and maintained. Equally, it will impact on the requirements of those businesses providing the parts, diagnostics, repair and maintenance – the aftermarket value chain.

The key question for many aftermarket businesses is how to improve their technical capabilities to address these developing opportunities, but this may come down to how to access and handle the vehicle data, not just for the existing day to day business models but to support new services and business models based on remote access to the vehicle.

Attendance necessary

So understanding and planning for the future is probably the key motivation of why you should take the time and make the effort to visit important exhibitions, especially when they are as good as the recent NEC one. It really felt as though Automechanika Birmingham was where the aftermarket had come together, but although healthy and vibrant today, this does not guarantee that it will continue tomorrow with the threat from increasingly complex vehicles. This exhibition brought a new focus for the aftermarket, but this is also a reflection of the increasing rate of change and the threats facing the independent sector. The most telling comment from some visitors was why there weren’t even more workshop owners and technicians there. Perhaps next year the currently unenlightened ones will be there.

Next year’s show will be held from the 6th to the 8th June, but I strongly suggest that you start planning now. Hotels will only get more expensive the closer you get to next year’s show and unless you live reasonably close to the NEC, you will need a hotel as there was too much to see and do if you only plan to visit for one day.

Therefore, on your list of things to do to stay abreast of the developing threats and opportunities in the aftermarket, firstly, start planning your visit to next year’s show, including the excellent range of seminars and key note speakers and secondly, support the aftermarket industry associations – more than ever, now is the time for the industry to come together and fight for your future business.

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